Northlake Mall lets special needs children meet Santa during closed hours

Posted December 05, 2017

Each employee in Santa's workshop is trained on working with kids with special needs.

Kim and her husband Denis were at Londonderry Mall with their boys Luke and Zach for a special Silent Santa visit organized by Autism Edmonton. "Because if we had to come and wait an hour, it would not go well, so it would just be something that we wouldn't do and miss out on", said Brett Flannery.

"It's very important", said Santa "I mean, that's what Christmas is all about".

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The goal of the gathering was to ease sensory triggers and create a more welcoming environment for children with special needs. And families say it works.

"His attitude and his reaction right now, the mood he's in is because of this, you know?" said Smith. "If he had to come and wait line, it would've been a whole other story".

"He doesn't like crowds and he needs a little bit calmer", said Flannery.

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"It makes us feel like a regular, normal family", said Angie Flannery, whose son has special needs.

Santa and his helpers gave access to his Wonderland for the families who signed up, before the mall opened.

The mall teamed up with Autism Speaks, Cherry Hill Programs, and FEAT of Louisville to make the event possible. The report says it's unknown who took the full Santa Claus suit and an extra hat from a back room at the mall. We are just aware of all of those sensory overloads, so there is not that pressure of stand in the line, be quiet, and don't touch anything.

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Breanne Hartfield, a parent, says she found out about the event through Facebook and couldn't pass up the opportunity. "Or sometimes Luke will just absolutely shut down and it's like he's not there - it's just too much for him". "He gets over stimulated by all of the people".